Streaming video to ios device with custom httphandler in

I ran into an interesting tidbit just now while trying to dynamically stream a video file using a custom http handler. The idea here is to bypass the static handler for a file so that I can perform authentication/preprocessing/etc when a user requests a video resource and I don’t have to expose a static folder with potentially sensitive resources.

I had everything working fine on my desktop browser, but when I went to test on my iPhone I got the dreaded play button with a circle crossed out


I hate that thing.

Anyways, streaming a file from the static handler worked fine though, so what was the difference? This is where I pulled out charles and checked the response headers.

From the static handler I’d get this:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type	video/mp4
Last-Modified	Wed, 15 May 2013 20:59:30 GMT
Accept-Ranges	bytes
ETag	"9077fe17af51ce1:0"
Server	Microsoft-IIS/7.5
X-Powered-By	ASP.NET
Date	Wed, 15 May 2013 21:23:41 GMT
Content-Length	2509720

And for my dynamic handler I got this:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Cache-Control	private
Content-Type	video/mp4
Server	Microsoft-IIS/7.5
X-AspNet-Version	4.0.30319
X-Powered-By	ASP.NET
Date	Wed, 15 May 2013 21:22:55 GMT
Content-Length	2509720

So all that was missing was ETag and Accept-Ranges.

Turns out ETag is a good thing to have since its a CRC of the file. It tells the client if anything has actually changed or not and helps with caching. Not a bad thing to have, especially if you use a fast hashing algorithm to generate your signature.

The second thing that was different was the Accept-Ranges header. This turns out to be a way for the client to make certain range requests in case a connection is closed or something fails. From the spec:

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) clients often encounter interrupted data transfers as a result of canceled requests or dropped connections. When a client has stored a partial representation, it is desirable to request the remainder of that representation in a subsequent request rather than transfer the entire representation. Likewise, devices with limited local storage might benefit from being able to request only a subset of a larger representation, such as a single page of a very large document, or the dimensions of an embedded image.

This document defines HTTP/1.1 range requests, partial responses, and the multipart/byteranges media type. Range requests are an optional feature of HTTP, designed so that recipients not implementing this feature (or not supporting it for the target resource) can respond as if it is a normal GET request without impacting interoperability. Partial responses are indicated by a distinct status code to not be mistaken for full responses by caches that might not implement the feature.

Although the range request mechanism is designed to allow for extensible range types, this specification only defines requests for byte ranges.

However, it’s up the server to tell the client that it supports range requests. So, once I added this into the header

context.Response.Headers.Add("Accept-Ranges", "bytes");
context.Response.Headers.Add("ETag", HashUtil.QuickComputeHash(target));
context.Response.ContentType = "video/mp4";

Everything started to work. Now, I’m not actually handling range requests though. I need to test with a huge file and kill the connection and see what happens. But, even then, all that requires is testing the request headers and parsing for the byte range it wants to send out.

Turns out I’m not the only one to see this happen. Check out here and here for more info.

2 thoughts on “Streaming video to ios device with custom httphandler in

  1. Just what I needed. Thank’s man.

    The only difference is that I’m using an “ActionResult” in MVC 5, but I was missing the same headers.

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